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Sporting Bids

Mega-events and premier sporting leagues are the pinnacle for sportsmen and women. It is the same for sign-makers. Genevieve Lewis discovers how to find, bid for, and negotiate sporting contracts

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The Rugby World Cup will be held in Japan in 2019 and the parent company Rugby World Cup put out a request on its website for signage partners

Aiming for the big time

Major sporting events and domestic leagues across the globe are largely sought after by sponsorships, branding and signage experts. The exposure the tournaments and leagues present are unprecedented, especially if those sporting events are the prestigious FIFA World Cup in football, or the Olympic Games, both of which take place every four years.

Domestic leagues, particularly in football, also offer great opportunities for sign-makers and digital signage companies. There are multiple leagues that are watched globally despite only taking place in one country, such as The Premier League in England, La Liga in Spain, the Bundesliga in Germany, Ligue 1 in France and Serie A in Italy. These leagues are supported and viewed globally, providing the perfect platform for sign-makers and digital companies to get their work involved. So, how do sign-makers find contracts and how do you bid for them?

The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, in June and July, was watched by billions of people as the globe’s top international teams take to the field to fight for the title of number one.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup was held in Russia, with Tripleplay providing signage. Pictured: Spain play Iran in the group stages

Tripleplay, which have offices in the UK, Spain, America, Singapore and Australia, were the suppliers of hundreds of screens for the Russia World Cup. The Luzhniki Stadium, which was the main stage and host of the final, can hold 81,000 fans, making it the largest stadium in Russia and one of the largest in Europe. Over 700 screens, digital signage and IPTV (delivered on Samsung screens) from Tripleplay were used to deliver the World Cup to fans in the concourse and in the stadium. In the Spartak Stadium, a further 180 screens were installed.

Carlos Amorós, general manager EMEA at Tripleplay, comments: “We are extremely proud to have been selected by Luzhniki Stadium and Spartak Stadium for this exciting project. Tripleplay has been deployed in some of the world’s most prestigious sports stadia and arena and this is excellent validation as to why we are the industry leader for professional digital signage and IPTV.”

When it comes to digital signage in sports stadia, Tripleplay is certainly a leader in terms of working with the big dogs. The multinational business has installed signage at Atletico Madrid, Chelsea FC, Daytona International Speedway and Twickenham Stadium. When sourcing opportunities for major events such as the FIFA World Cup, try contacting the stadia themselves, as they may have their own projects available for sign-makers.

The Rugby World Cup is also a prestigious event for the top international teams in rugby union from across the globe. The next edition of the competition will be taking place in Japan and one way organisers call for bids from companies is to release a statement. The aptly named Rugby World Cup (RWCL) released a statement inviting sign-makers to bid for contracts to provide signage for the 2019 tournament. A step towards getting involved with major sporting events and its signage is to keep note of major sporting events and when they are taking place, making sure to check websites or to make enquiries as to when contracts will be handed out. On this particular occasion, RWCL posted on its website this statement: “Perimeter signage is an extremely important part of the event for RWCL’s sponsorship programme, and the highest quality equipment and standards must be applied to achieve the desired results for all stakeholders.

“RWCL is looking to receive responses to this RFP which provide innovative and comprehensive solutions to the provision, transportation, delivery, installation, operation, de-installation, maintenance insurance, storage and management of the tournament’s LED signage.”

While one of the recommended requirements was to speak Japanese, the invitation was open to sign-makers all over the world and would provide a platform for international sign-makers to get involved.

Like most opportunities, sometimes it is all about who you know, not what you know. One Signs Express franchisee director says that building relationships and a reputation for yourself is one of the best ways to get involved with sporting signage, be it digital or printed.

Signs Express Grantham has built up a relationship with Rugby Union side Leicester Tigers, recently rebranding the iconic Crumbie stand

Signs Express Grantham recently undertook a project with Leicester Tigers rugby club, as part of a partnership that has spanned several years.

The Grantham branch were asked to rebrand Leicester’s Crumbie stand to become The Breedon stand, which can hold 8,500 fans and the Cube building located inside the Welford Road stadium, in just one week. The franchisee manufactured 300m of full-coloured printed aluminium boards, which were outsourced to O’Neill Modern Media and printed on an Inca Onset direct to substrate printer. These boards were placed within the stand, alongside the rear, the front of the seating area and the roof.

Ian Charles, director of Signs Express Grantham, says that sometimes it is a case of who you know, and openly seeking opportunities. He comments: “This particular partnership [with Leicester Tigers] goes back to around 2011/2012 – quite a long-standing relationship built up over a number of years. Initially, they invited me to get some season tickets, to which I said no problem, but can I have a go at doing your signs as well? And it’s funny because you don’t expect anything, but they gave me an opportunity to do something and I did it and it’s gone from there.”

You’ve got to be fairly flexible and adaptable. You’ve got to be open minded about the kind of work you are about to take on

Charles also says that once you start working with sports clubs and foundations, your reputation in that area begins to grow, presenting further opportunities down the line. His advice to sign-makers wanting to get the big contracts for sporting events is simple, just find someone to ask and make sure that you fully understand the job you want to take on. He continues: “You’ve got to be fairly flexible and adaptable. You’ve got to be open minded about the kind of work you are about to take on, because it can be a bit of a nightmare at times, as you’re working to a fairly tight deadline, tight digits, circumstances of when you can work on site. Adaptability and versatility are key. You have to look at your team and think, can we do this? Can we handle it? It isn’t the easiest work, but it is some of the most rewarding.

“There are various ways of getting involved – I was approached recently actually, asking if we would like to work with another sports club. If you have a target for something, find out who the best person is to talk to, for example with Leicester, it was the head of brands. I’m guessing they will have a head of marketing, a commercial director and someone that has an eye on the branding, how they want the stadium to look, how they work with the sponsors and other interested parties. It’s finding yourself the key person within the club.”

When negotiating major sports contracts, the goal is to find an answer to the customers’ challenges and objectives that gives them the product and solution that best fits their needs

Brent Stevens, national sales manager for professional sports at Daktronics, adds that building a partnership with a club is definitely the way forward. He explains: “When negotiating major sports contracts, the goal is to find an answer to the customers’ challenges and objectives that gives them the product and solution that best fits their needs. But also providing the solution in a way that creates a valued partnership to help them for years into the future.”

Stevens continues: “A price-focused bid can lead to an unhealthy relationship where one side is unhappy and not willing to work very well with the other. We work closely with our customers to ensure they understand the trade-offs between price and product, so they know what they are getting for their money.

“At the end of the day, we want to be true partners. We want to work with teams and venues to see the same goal and aim for a mutually beneficial solution. The end goal is for everyone to feel excited about moving forward.”

This impressive installation was fitted by Daktronics at the Mercedes-Benz stadium, home to NFL team Atlanta Falcons and soccer team Atlanta United

Building a relationship with customers will put you in pole position to receive more opportunities within the club, but this will also mean that they will recommend you to other organisations. Daktronics are a global company and has provided sport signage across the world, installing scoreboards and digital screens at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia, installing a scoreboard for the 2009 Formula 1 British Grand Prix hours before the race started, and numerous signs in American sports. Having such a diverse and sparkling portfolio has allowed the company to work with the pinnacle of sporting clubs.

The Chinese Super League is quickly becoming a major sporting league, and Absen has capitalised on this, installing digital signage and becoming a partner

Another business that has aimed for the heights of international sport is Absen, which recently struck a deal with the up-and-coming Chinese Super League. Already enticing big names in football to play in China, such as former Manchester United and City player Carlos Tevez, who became one of the highest paid footballers in the world.

Ross Burling, business development manager UK, Ireland and Nordics for Absen Europe, says that having the right product will naturally attract opportunities from sporting clubs and events. He explains: “The process might differ from one sports league to another, but the most important thing is to have a highly qualitative and reliable product, as well as an impeccable customer and after sales service.

Ross Burling, business development manager UK, Ireland and Nordics for Absen Europe

“The CSL issued a tender to find the right LED sponsor and Absen were shortlisted and was the only manufacturer able to deliver on all requirements. Representatives from the CSL visited Absen’s HQ, comforting the delegation that they were the right partner for this, from company management to product quality control and testing. After only a few games, the CSL commented about the robustness, product quality control and testing. After only a few games, the CSL commented about the robustness, product and image quality of the products.”

For smaller sign-makers, Burling says you should put yourself in the position of the customer is key to understand what they are looking for. However, he says that it might be hard to challenge for the ‘big names’ in sport, simply because supplying digital signage for them would be a mammoth task. But for those that want to break into sport, he advises: “Put yourself in the position of the customer, venue or event and try to understand why they would want your product, and what differentiation are you offering compared to anything else out there?

O Factoid: The Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta holds the record for the world’s longest halo board. The 360 degree, 62,000sq ft circular digital board was fitted by Daktronics in 2017 at the stadium, which also has a retractable roof. O

“Whilst the sports market is exciting, innovative, engaging and has a huge fan base across the globe, be prepared to understand that in most instances you will not see any increased reward (over and about your normal margins), and the primary function of your signage/display is to act as a ‘reference’ for you to win more business (typically higher profile) in this market sector.”

Absen was also involved in this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, with screens in three of the 12 stadiums involved, showcasing the company’s dedication to sporting signage. Burling concludes: “Absen is regularly involved in mega-events, and for example, three of the 12 stadiums selected in Russia to host this summer’s major sports event boast a total of over 2,000sq m of Absen LED screens.”

So, it seems that the most proactive way of finding and bidding for major sporting contracts is to get directly in contact with the marketing team at the club, event or stadia, as well as making sure that you are offering something that no one else can. Providing signage for major leagues or mega sporting events may not be the easiest of tasks, so make sure that you know what it takes to be involved, as reaffirmed by Signs Express Grantham, Absen and Daktronics. But, if you are successful in this game, your name will literally be up in lights.


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